Ponder the meme above. What do you see?

Is it violent and thuggish government agents dispersing a peaceful protest?

Or is it properly equipped law enforcement officers protecting individual and property rights from a violent mob?

The meme’s author is looking to make a point about the dissonance found in leftists’ protests in favor of more-government, but I found the meme reductive. Without context, without knowing who’s initiating the violence, it’s not clear who the bad guys are here.

That said, both interpretations I offer point us at what we should want and who we should support: those who are not initiating the violence.

Libertarians will refer to the NAP, the Non-Aggression Principle, as a core tenet of the philosophy. The Libertarian Party even requires (required? It’s been a while) an attestation:

I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals.

as a condition for membership.

Yet, libertarians are not often conflated with pacifists, at least not by people who actually understand the latter term. The crux of the belief lies in “initiation.” Don’t throw the first punch, or the first stone. Don’t swing the first bat. Yes, yes, there’s nuance – you don’t have to wait for the bad guy to actually shoot at you first before defending yourself, but you get the idea.

As I’ve written several times in my commentary on the George Floyd matter and its (d)evolution into anarchic violence, there’s a world of difference between peaceful protests and violent looting, arson, and mayhem. There’s a world of difference between a violent state response to a peaceful protest and law enforcement attempting to thwart looting, arson, and mayhem. One is tyranny, the other is responsibility.

It’s when we understand the difference that we know what to expect and demand from our law enforcement organizations. That’s not something easily conveyed via meme.

Unfortunately, memes are so easy to make and share that they displace the dialogue, analysis, and understanding that’s vital to advancing our society in the direction of liberty and harmony. And, in the tale of two memes, we see what we want to see, i.e. an over-simplistic assertion of the “goodness” of our side of the political aisle and the “badness” of the other side (that it’s complicated by the military-style gear the law enforcement officers are wearing is an issue for separate discussion).

Clearly, it’s not that simple, despite our tribalism pushing us in that direction. Easy meme-ing and tribalism, a one-two punch that makes productive dialogue and productive change so difficult. And, yet, we must persist, because the alternative is terrible.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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